Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brazil flood deaths rise to 400; rescuers struggle


Rescue workers dug desperately for survivors on Thursday and struggled to reach areas cut off by raging floods and landslides that have killed at least 400 people in one of Brazil's deadliest natural disasters in decades.

Torrents of mud and water set off by heavy rains left a trail of destruction through the mountainous Serrana region near the city of Rio de Janeiro, toppling houses, buckling roads and burying entire families as they slept.

"It's like an earthquake struck some areas," said Jorge Mario, the mayor of the Teresopolis, where at least 175 people were killed in the flooding.

"There are three or four neighborhoods that were totally destroyed in rural areas. There are hardly any houses standing there and all the roads and bridges are destroyed."

The mudslides swept away the homes of rich and poor alike in and around Teresopolis and other towns, likely causing billions of dollars in damage. But the brunt of the disaster was borne by poorer rural residents in houses built in risky areas without formal planning permission.

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